Each time Brendan Gaughan heads to Las Vegas Motor Speedway it is a special occasion. The driver of the No. 62 South Point Hotel & Casino Chevrolet was born and raised in Las Vegas and still calls the city home.
However, this weekend’s trip to the 1.5-mile speedway for the Boyd Gaming 300 is even more special to the 41-year-old veteran. When Gaughan straps into the No. 62 Chevrolet Camaro and takes the green flag for Saturday’s NASCAR XFINITY Series race, it will be the 500th start of his career NASCAR.
Gaughan’s 500th Start Comes Full Circle
A career that began in a NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in 1997 comes full circle as he celebrates the milestone start in front of his hometown crowd.
Always one to have a good time, Gaughan joked he had this in mind all from the beginning.
“I planned this all out,” he said. “I planned it out all the way back in 1997 when I made that first Truck Series start. That’s how good I am. I said that in 2017 I would have my 500th start in Las Vegas.”
Since that first start in 1997, Gaughan has competed at all levels of NASCAR.
He has 51 starts in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, 185 in the XFINITY Series, 217 in the Camping World Truck Series, and 46 in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West. All told, he has 18 NASCAR victories spanning his 20-year career.
Originally, Gaughan’s 500th start was slated for the March 18th XFINITY Series race at Phoenix Raceway, but a last-minute plan to run the 2017 Daytona 500 lined things up perfectly.
“I’m excited that my 500th start is happening at Las Vegas Motor Speedway,” said Gaughan. “I couldn’t think of a better place for it to happen. I couldn’t have planned it any better even if I had tried.”
While Las Vegas Motor Speedway holds a special place in his heart, Gaughan admits he has had a “roller coaster” experience at him home track over the years.
“We’ve been the fastest car here and lost a motor. We’ve won in the (K&N) West. We’ve won in the Truck Series. We’ve had heartbreaks where we’ve wrecked trucks in final practice and had to go to back-ups,” he said. “Vegas was the home of my race team for eight years. We were located right over Turn 1. I have a ton of laps at the Richard Petty Driving Experience here. This place has been very special from the get-go and it’s really cool that such a big milestone gets to happen here.”
From Rookie to Veteran
When Gaughan entered the sport in 1997 as a 21-year-old rookie in the Truck Series fresh out of Georgetown University, he looked up to the veterans of the sport calling them, “Mr. Hornaday,” “Mr. Sprague,” and “Mr. Skinner.” These days, Gaughan is the veteran of the garage and often sought out by younger drivers for advice.
“Now the kids come up to me and say, ‘Mr. Gaughan,’ and I just laugh,” he said. “When you have your first race, you’re just happy to be in a race car. I never thought about the future like that at all. To see how far I’ve come from that first Truck Series race in 1997, I never thought I’d be here at this point.”
Reflecting on his 20-year career, Gaughan says he has no regrets and has learned throughout the entire experience from some of the top team owners in the sport.
“I don’t ever think I should have done something different. I learn every step of the way, from the good and the bad,” said Gaughan. “I let life keep happening, because if you sit there and regret things you’re going to be miserable. I can’t say every decision I made was right, but I am where I am today because of those decisions and I am happy with that.
“I’ve been fortunate to be with great teams along the way,” he said. “I’m with Richard Childress Racing now. Racing for teams such as Rusty Wallace Racing, racing for Richard Childress and Roger Penske, those are places you don’t have to worry about much. You just go race cars and let them do the heavy lifting.”
Having Fun Beyond 500
Looking beyond his 500th start, Gaughan believes his future includes selling a lot of his City Lights Shine whiskey and still trying to have fun while racing.
“If you’re not having fun, don’t do it. When I get in the race car it is fun, but it’s only fun because I have good equipment,” he said. “That is all thanks to Richard Childress, Shane Wilson and all of RCR. It enables me to have fun inside the car.”
Although the landmark start comes in his hometown of Sin City, Gaughan does not have an extravagant celebration planned. He only has one way he wants to mark the occasion: win the race and celebrate in Victory Lane.